TORONTO - Cliff Lee, permitted a moment of contemplation Wednesday before his removal, placed his hands on his hips. For six innings, he fired fastballs at a frenetic tempo in a duel with Mark Buehrle that defied the modern game's pace. Now, his boss demanded the ball in the middle of a riotous seventh.
Lee flipped it from his left hand. He dashed to the visitors' dugout at Rogers Centre with a disaster behind him.
"I don't know what happened," Lee said after a 10-0 defeat. "They just started squaring everything up."
The Toronto Blue Jays bludgeoned the Phillies for nine runs in the seventh and cruised to their third straight victory over the Phillies. The season is 32 games old, and its nadir arrived when Toronto batted 12 times in the seventh, with three homers as punctuation. Lee was responsible for six runs in 61/3 innings. Mario Hollands and Shawn Camp each allowed two more.
The damage was unforgiving. Ben Revere played a deep fly that struck the base of the wall into a triple with a circuitous route. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said it was a catchable ball; Revere assumed the blame for the mistake.
"It looked like he gave up on it," Sandberg said. ". . . Things unraveled from that point forward. I can imagine there would be some frustration with Cliff at that point."
Erik Kratz, dumped by the Phillies in December for triple-A reliever Brad Lincoln, destroyed a first-pitch Lee fastball for a two-run bomb. Juan Francisco mashed a line-drive homer that just cleared the right-field fence.
Hollands struck out Melky Cabrera, but Cabrera reached because strike three bounced to the backstop. That scored another run. Edwin Encarnacion battered an 87-m.p.h. Camp sinker deep to center for three more.
Lee, arms crossed, watched the misery from the dugout. It ended only when slow-footed Dioner Navarro conceded a double play.
"They flat-out beat us in every way," Lee said. "They shut us out and scored - what was it, 10 runs? That's a pretty good beating right there."
It is possible that the horrific seventh inning had no bearing on the final result; the Phillies offense fell into another coma. They were blanked for the second time in three days. They have scored in only one of their last 35 innings.
For much of Wednesday, Lee pitched with a 1-0 deficit. The pressure on the pitchers to be perfect is too much, Sandberg said.
The Phillies continued on a sideways path to mediocrity. For the last three days, they failed in every manner. That is dispiriting, especially after the weekend success against a talented Washington club.
"I mean, whatever," Lee said. "It is what it is. We just have to come out here tomorrow and try to turn it around."
Buehrle's drab repertoire confounded the Phillies for six innings. He did not throw a pitch faster than 85 m.p.h. The 35-year-old lefthander confuses the opponent in an unusual manner; no pitcher works at a quicker pace than Buehrle, who averages 16 seconds between pitches. His ERA is 1.91.
Lee, too, is regarded for his fast pace; his 20-second interval ranked 13th among starters.
The first five innings took 1 hour, 7 minutes. The Phillies advanced a runner into scoring position three times but never cracked Buehrle.
Cody Asche started the third with a walk. He moved to second on a Revere single. Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley could not deliver a key hit.
Asche started his first game against a lefthanded pitcher since April 4. Sandberg envisions Asche, who collected four hits Tuesday, playing with more regularity no matter the pitcher.
No combination clicked Wednesday for the Phillies. Tony Gwynn Jr. took over in right field with the crooked score, only to tumble as he pursued an eighth-inning fly ball.
This nightmare - a brisk 2 hours, 23 minutes - could not end soon enough.
BY THE NUMBERS
Hits by the Blue Jays during their nine-run outburst in the seventh.
Toronto homers in the inning.